Hurricane Dorian has continued to batter the Bahamas, peeling off roofs and snapping power lines, with forecasters predicting the storm will creep closer to the US coast, where more than a million people were ordered to evacuate.
- Mandatory evacuations are in place in Florida’s two biggest cities
- Dorian has been downgraded to a Category 4 storm but will still remain powerful
- As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or damaged
The Bahamas Press reported on Twitter that a boy had drowned in the northern Bahamas, the first recorded fatality from Dorian.
As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.
The storm, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record, was stalled over Grand Bahama Island, packing maximum sustained winds of 249 kilometres per hour and moving at 2 kph, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said in an advisory at 11:00am (local time).
Dorian was expected to pound Grand Bahama for much of the day.
Mandatory evacuations in parts of US
Strong winds and high surf were already being reported along Florida’s east coast as the hurricane was about 177 kilometres from West Palm Beach, the NHC said, adding Dorian would come dangerously close to the state on Monday night (local time) through Wednesday evening.
Parts of Duval County, home to Jacksonville, one of Florida’s two biggest cities, were under a mandatory evacuation.
Palm Beach County, the state’s third most-populated county and home to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, was among those with partial mandatory evacuations.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis urged coastal residents to heed evacuation orders.
“Get out now while there’s time and while you have fuel available,” he said in a news conference from the state’s emergency operations centre in Tallahassee.
In central Florida, Mary McNiff, 92, was waiting in a wheelchair to board a bus that would evacuate her from her retirement community in Kissimmee.
“Right now I’m feeling pretty good. Kind of anxious to get it over with,” she said.
There were no immediate estimates of casualties as Dorian covered the north-western islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama with twisted metal and splintered wood.
‘Extreme destruction on the island’
Dorian was downgraded to a Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale late on Monday morning (local time).
But the NHC said it would remain a powerful hurricane for the next couple of days.
The storm will raise water levels by as much as 5.5 to 7 metres above normal in areas of Grand Bahama and be accompanied by large and destructive waves, the NHC said.
It warned of the risk of “extreme destruction on the island”.
Residents posted images online of water rising up the side of their houses.
Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport was under 1.5 metres of water, according to the Bahamas Press.
Airports and petrol stations closed
The storm was causing havoc for travellers on Florida’s east coast, where some airports and petrol stations were closed.
Delta Air Lines said it cancelled 55 flights scheduled for Monday and Tuesday (local time) after US airports in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Melbourne and Daytona Beach closed.
Hurricane Dorian is viewed from the International Space Station, has been building in strength. (NASA via Reuters)
American Airlines said airport operations had been suspended at seven airports in Florida and the Bahamas, and a travel alert issued for more than 20 airports including in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Scientists have warned that climate change is making hurricanes more intense. As global warming heats up the ocean surface temperature, storms gather more energy, which can lead to greater rainfall and stronger winds as they make landfall.